16. June 2020 Blog

What is Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) & 7 Signs That You Need it

Sooner or later, every well-functioning call center is bound to deal with a high volume of calls. Luckily, there are certain tech solutions like Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) systems that can help your agents stay on top of things.

It’s no secret that call center agents have to deal with plenty of callers on a daily basis. In such circumstances, keeping their productivity and morale high is not the easiest task - especially without dedicated call center tools. If you truly want to help your agents handle high volumes of calls, implementing Automatic Call Distribution is rather necessary. 

Why so? Basically, Automatic Call Distributors route incoming calls to the agents who are the most capable of assisting the callers, based on a variety of factors. It might not seem like it at first, but such a solution brings multiple benefits to businesses and their call centers. Here’s everything you should know about Automatic Call Distribution

What is automatic call distribution (ACD) in the first place?

ACD, meaning Automatic Call Distribution, is a telecommunications technology that routes all incoming calls to specific departments or agents within the organization, based on pre-set distribution rules. This way, all callers can be routed to the most appropriate department and agent as quickly as possible. 

An ACD system is a perfect solution for any call center, as it helps to manage call volume more effectively. Whenever the call traffic is too high, call center agents are busy or not available to answer the calls after hours - Automatic Call Distributor is there to assist the callers. 

You might be under the impression that ACD is the same as Interactive Voice Response, but that’s not quite the case. The main difference between these two is that IVRs are meant to route calls or provide information upon caller selection, while Automatic Call Distribution is based on predefined rules of your choosing.

For example, any call outside standard business hours will automatically be sent to voicemail without any effort from the caller (or your agents, for that matter). 

At the same time, however, both IVR & ACD are unlikely to work separately from call center software. Modern call center solutions allow these technologies to work together for even higher agent productivity & caller satisfaction.

Typically, when a caller contacts a company, they are greeted by the IVR and prompted to state the reason for their call, and then routed by ACD based on the call routing strategy. 

But how does Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) work, exactly?

Once a caller dials a phone number, there’s quite a complex routing process that’s triggered, based on pre-set distribution rules. But how Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) calls are routed and handled, exactly? All this is usually possible with cloud-based software equipped with: 

  • CTI (Computer-Telephony Integration), which connects the company’s telecom with the software and allows all call center agents to answer calls directly from their devices,
  • IVR  (Interactive Voice Response), which powers the greetings & menu options callers hear and can choose from, 
  • ACD (Automatic Call Distributor), which actually routes the call. Routing can also happen based on the specific number dialed, be it tech support, customer service, or claims, thanks to DNIS (Dialled Number Identification Service). 

Powerful call center systems can also use ANI (Automatic Number Identification) that “sync” incoming calls with caller information that’s already in the system and helps in effective call routing, especially with the ability to recognize calls from VIP clients (which we’re about to cover in a bit).   

Since call routing can happen in various ways, it’s pretty much up to you to set up a routing strategy and configure your ACD system accordingly. Then, thanks to the pre-defined rules & algorithm that determines the best available agents to route the caller to, all callers are paired with the most appropriate agents at all times. 

The routing algorithm can be based on any (or even all) of the following:  

  • The dialed phone number 
  • Caller ID, Automatic Number Identification (ANI) or Dialed Number Identification Service (DNIS) that determine all available information about the caller
  • IVR menu options 
  • Agent availability 
  • Agent skills or knowledge 
  • Queue statistics
  • Time of day

Nonetheless, there’s also one more factor that comes into play - call distribution methods. All incoming calls can be routed to agents in several different ways, including: 

  1. Linear call distribution/fixed order - calls are distributed in a pre-defined order to all agents, starting with the same agents every time. When the first agent on the list can’t answer the call, the caller is routed to the next agent on the list until someone answers. This call distribution method is often used to prioritize particular agents over others, i.e. based on their skill set.
  2. Circular/round-robin call distribution – calls are distributed in a continuous loop, starting with the agent that is right after the last who received the call. Only when the last agent on the list has taken a call, the cycle restarts. 
  3. Uniform call distribution - calls are routed to the agent who has been the least-active (received the fewest calls or has been idle the longest). This method is often used to optimize employees’ working hours so that no single agent receives more or fewer calls than others. 
  4. Simultaneous call distribution – calls alert all available agents at the same time, and the first agent who answers simply handles the call. 
  5. Time-based call distribution - instead of routing the calls to all agents at once to determine their availability, some Automatic Call Distribution software allows the agents to specify their working hours and statuses. Based on their input, the calls won’t be routed to the agents who are not available in a given moment. 
  6. Weighted call distribution/skills-based routing - each agent has a specific weighted score based on chosen criteria (i.e. language proficiency, experience, or skill set). When routing the calls, the algorithm takes into account the strength of the agents’ scores. This method is used to identify the most suitable agent to handle the call and “relieve” less experienced or just starting agents from receiving too many calls.  
  7. Data-based call distribution/smart routing - involves assessing callers first based on available data (i.e. demographics or past history with the company) to determine which agent can assist them best. This call distribution method is often used to generate profits rather than save time, as it helps to, for example, identify callers who can be good candidates for an upgrade or upsell. 

As can be seen, there are multiple ways to direct calls within an ACD system, and many reasons why companies might prefer one method over another.

Now that you know all the call distribution & routing methods, it’s time to figure out which one will work for your business best, and why you should take advantage of ACD in the first place. Take a closer look at all features & benefits that Automatic Call Distribution has to offer. 

How, and why should you use an Automatic Call Distribution system in a call center?

Essentially, Automatic Call Distribution helps to “qualify” the callers and saves both parties a lot of time on redirections. As you might have gathered, though: the use of ACD goes beyond just “matching” callers in modern call centers. 

Automatic call distribution features allow for: 

#1 Routing incoming calls to the most suitable agents at all times

Calls can easily be routed to specific agents that can handle them best, i.e. based on their language skills, area of specialization, or experience. There are no unnecessary redirections indeed, which increases customer satisfaction, as well as team productivity in the long run. 

#2 Integrating ACD with other advanced call center features 

As already mentioned, Automatic Call Distribution won’t work without proper call center software. When it’s part of the bigger system, agents can have comprehensive information about the callers in one place, and view & access them easily.

Fortunately, many call center solutions that are equipped with Automatic Call Distribution feature can easily be integrated with CRM, helpdesk, or live chat solutions, just to name a few. All these systems collect valuable details on your customers and when stored in one place, can give your agents a complete set of information on the callers and help to assist them best. 

#3 Identifying “VIP callers” and blacklisted numbers 

Let’s face it: some of the callers might be slightly more important than others. In such cases, providing them with stellar assistance gets easier with an ACD. This way, all VIP callers are routed immediately to the most appropriate agent, or placed in the front of the waiting queue.

These callers are usually identified based on the information on them in the call center system. The same applies to blacklisted numbers - these numbers can be identified in advance and dropped immediately, which helps “real” callers get through queues faster.

#4 Increasing agent productivity 

Without Automatic Call Distribution, less experienced or new agents may resort to transferring calls to other team members, which increases hold time and often frustrates the callers. Smart call routing rules can easily increase agent productivity while making sure that all calls are distributed fairly among all team members.

Advanced ACD software also collects data on all the calls, which makes call monitoring, as well as team management & coaching much more straightforward. 

#5 Keeping distributed agents together 

If your agents work in different locations and languages, ACD allows the whole team to function as one call center. Basically, based on specific numbers or pre-defined rules, ACD systems can route calls to agents around the world, no matter where they are.    

#6 Preventing long wait times & call overflow 

ACD helps to balance the use of phone lines effectively. To start with, it makes it possible to have multiple waiting queues - for different numbers, departments, or teams, for instance. Multiple waiting queues paired with smart call distribution allow for answering calls faster.

Plus, when all agents are busy and queues are full, calls can be automatically directed to voicemail. This means that with ACD in place, any call center is capable of handling high call volumes and serving callers properly. 

#7 Improved customer satisfaction 

Since calls can be routed & answered faster and by the most suitable agents, customer satisfaction increases. It also ensures more consistency and ultimately a better experience with your call center. Basically, no matter where your customers are and what query they have, they can always expect to be assisted by the right agent and have their issue resolved. 

Make the most of Automatic Call Distribution (ACD) features

It should come as no surprise that Automatic Call Distributors offer call centers a wide range of features that can easily boost agent productivity and customer satisfaction. What’s more, they are highly customizable, depending on the needs of your call center. 

It’s important to keep in mind, though, that Automatic Call Distribution won’t work well without call center software. In order to achieve the best results, you should pick a powerful phone solution that offers the ACD feature and create a call routing strategy that’s tailored to your business. 

In case you’re looking for one - see what CloudTalk has to offer. With advanced Call Flow Designer, ACD, and IVR features in place, you can set up a well-functioning call center in no time.